Research and writing

Dalene used to say: “One always writes for that one person who knows more than you do.” As a result, she undertook an enormous amount of research and field work for each of her books – particularly her historical novels:

For Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest) she travelled to Italy to explore the silk industry and to England to find out more about the shipping industry. For Pieternella van die Kaap (Pieternella, Daughter of Eva) she undertook field work in The Netherlands, in London, on Robben Island and in Mauritius. She tracked down people from far and wide to interview them. She studied books and manuscripts, and visited the places where specific events took place. She paid long visits to the Cape Town Archives and to research libraries such as the JS Gericke Library at Stellenbosch University and the British Library (of which she was a member). For Pieternella van die Kaap (Pieternella, Daughter of Eva) she appointed Dr Dan Sleigh as fellow researcher.

She did up to four years’ research and background work for each book before putting pen to paper. She always translated the first draft of her books herself to ensure the correct transfer of culture-specific information. Or, as she put it, “to prevent the English from translating koekepanne (ore trams) with cake pans”.